By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Prior to heading to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas for three shows, Chicago band The Future Laureates will perform March 7 at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St., Chicago, as part of a SXSW send-off party.
Molehill, Vintage Blue and Steve Stone also are on the bill. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketweb.com.
I had the chance to talk to The Future Laureates frontman Danny Surico about the upcoming show.
Q - Great talking to you again. You guys have previously played at SXSW. What did you learn from that experience and what do you hope to achieve at this year's festival?
We've learned a lot. It seems every year we go down to Austin for SXSW, we learn a little bit more about the lay of the land and how to use our time most strategically.
A big learning curve for us as an independent band has been realizing that there are maybe a handful of really quality relationships and conversations that are worth pursuing over the course of music week. So we've basically learned to network smarter, not harder.
This year, I think we're hoping to finalize our team that we've been building over the past year.
Q - Of course, the band recently released "Here and After," which you made with Grammy-nominated producer, Chris Grainger. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?
We were introduced through a mutual friend and colleague. Chris is a fantastic producer. He works very efficiently as an engineer, but he also brings really strong musical ideas to the table as a producer.
Q - In sitting down to make "Here and After," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? How do you think the EP compares lyrically and musically to your past efforts?
I think our goals were (and still are) to use the record as a launching pad to make the leap from a local, Chicago band to more of a regional or national act. I think the jury's still out on whether we've accomplished that just yet; but I can definitely look at what we've been building over the past year and can say with confidence that we've progressed quite a bit since recording and releasing "Here and After."
Musically and lyrically, I think we are putting our stake in the ground as a band that writes sharp, melodic pop/rock/folk songs with a touch of soul; we also made more subtractive decisions with this record, which I think allows Matthew's voice and the lyrics to be at the forefront a bit more than on past records.
Q - Is there a meaning behind the EP's name?
Yes. We look at "Here and After" as an indication of where we are in the present, and acting as a turning point of where we hope to go as a band. So it's about staying grounded in the present with an eye toward continuing to grow in our craft and reach our potential as artists.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think the band fits into it? Do you have any favorite venues to play in Chicago?
I think the Chicago music scene has served for us what perhaps A&R people at record labels did for their artists decades ago, when labels had more money to spend on developing talent. I really think we have come of age in Chicago and in a vibrant and friendly scene in the realms of folk, rock, pop, and Americana.
We have played shows and shared resources and learned an astonishing amount from Chicago-based musicians who have really taken the time to mentor us and help us. I think we are at an interesting place in our career where we are starting to branch out more outside of Chicago - places like Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles.
We are starting to tour for longer periods of time and build up markets and connect with fans outside of Chicago. So it's almost like we've got one foot in and one foot out of the Chicago scene.
I think Lincoln Hall, Martyrs', House of Blues, and Metro are among our favorite venues we've been lucky enough to play in Chicago.
Q - The band has lent its music for different causes in the past, such as performing at a benefit show for the StreetWise organization, which helps Chicago's homeless population. Does the band feel the need to give back?
Yes. It's something personally I think we have not put as much of a focus on in recent years, but it is always something that stays on my mind as a goal for our band.
Using music as a vehicle to serve is something I'd like to put renewed focus and energy back into over the coming few years.
Q - Does the band have any dream projects or collaborations?
I have had a dream since I was 13 years old to tour with Guster. So if that were to happen, I think I'd be in a unique position of having to work toward a new dream :)
I'd also love to have the opportunity to co-write with other artists in the future. I think that is something I have more of an openness to and eagerness toward than I did in my early 20s.
A large part of that is a confidence that comes from experience. I've written hundreds of songs, so I feel like as I've continued to write, I've also improved in my craft.